Many Americans are planning trips abroad this summer as COVID-19 vaccinations increase, international borders begin to reopen, and foreign countries begin to welcome tourists back. Planning international travel comes with several must-do tasks that domestic travelers usually don’t need to worry about, including ensuring your passport is current, obtaining any required foreign visas or permits, and meeting foreign countries’ preventative health and vaccination requirements. Travelers, however, sometimes forget the need for a Power of Attorney when traveling. If you are planning to leave the U.S., another important item that should be on your to-do list is creating a Special Power of Attorney for the time period you will be out of the country.


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Why do I need a Special Power of Attorney while I am traveling abroad?

If you have completed other estate planning documents, you may have already created a power of attorney. While there are different types of power of attorney documents, the most common is a General Power of Attorney, which is designed to authorize a trusted agent to manage your affairs in the event you become incapacitated. A Special Power of Attorney is somewhat different in that it is typically for a limited period of time and may provide more targeted or limited powers than a General Power of Attorney.

For example, a Special Power of Attorney could authorize a trusted local friend or family member to deal with unexpected emergencies in your absence. In the event your home or vehicle suffered storm damage or another unforeseen issue arose while you were thousands of miles away, a Special Power of Attorney could authorize your agent to interact with your property and casualty insurance companies and financial providers to handle any personal affairs requiring in-person action. If you are a business owner, you could create a Special Power of Attorney authorizing a business partner or key employee to make business-related decisions and handle transactions in your absence.

Putting in place a Special Power of Attorney when traveling can provide valuable peace of mind so you can enjoy your international vacation to the fullest.

How long can a Special Power of Attorney last?

Special Powers of Attorney are often used for limited time periods, such as the duration of an international trip. Technically, you do not need to specify an end date for a Special Power of Attorney. If you do not limit the time period, the document will be in full force and effect until your death, unless you choose to revoke it before then.

If you create a Special Power of Attorney and want to limit its duration, consider whether it might make sense to extend the end date until several days (or weeks) after your expected return to the U.S. Doing so could ensure your agent has continued authority in the event you are delayed unexpectedly.

Another consideration is whether to make your Special Power of Attorney “durable.” That means that your agent’s authority to act, as specified in your document, would continue until the end date (if applicable) even if you were to become incapacitated. Under a non-durable power of attorney, your agent’s authority to act would stop in the event of your incapacity. Generally, it makes sense for most travelers to create durable powers of attorney. However, your individual circumstances and goals for the Special Power of Attorney may make a non-durable document more attractive.

Will a Special Power of Attorney still be good if I die?

Just as with a General Power of Attorney, any authority granted to an agent under a Special Power of Attorney stops the moment you die. In other words, you could not create a Special Power of Attorney giving an agent authority to make your funeral arrangements after you die because the document will no longer be in effect at that point.

If you don’t already have one, you can make a Will and name someone as your executor or personal representative, giving that person the power to manage your estate after your death. Your agent under a power of attorney and your executor or personal representative may be the same person, but the documents under which they act are different, depending on the circumstances.

Can I revoke a Special Power of Attorney in the U.S. if I am in a different country?

If you decide you want to end your agent’s authority under a Special Power of Attorney for any reason, you can do so by formally revoking the document in writing. The Revocation of Power of Attorney document should provide the date of your Special Power of Attorney and the agent named, and should specify that you want to revoke that agent’s authority. The signed revocation document must be provided to your agent and should also be provided to any financial institutions or other providers who could be relying on the original Special Power of Attorney document in the absence of notice of revocation.

Depending on your state’s laws, the formal notice may need to be notarized. This may present challenges while you are abroad, but some states now allow for remote notarization which may alleviate the problem.

If you are planning international travel in the coming months, consider whether a Special Power of Attorney may make sense in your situation. You can reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney at any time with questions or for assistance.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.